Fukushima ‘safe’ for Tokyo 2020, says baseball boss

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

TOKYO: Fukushima, site of one of the world’s worst nu­clear dis­as­ters, poses no threat to play­ers if baseball games are held there at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the sport’s top of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day.

Tokyo or­gan­is­ers want to hold part of baseball’s pre­lim­i­nary rounds in the re­gion to sup­port its re­cov­ery from the 2011 quake-tsunami and re­sult­ing nu­clear cri­sis.

While any such de­ci­sion could trig­ger health fears among par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions, the head of the World Baseball Soft­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion in­sisted it would be safe to play in Fukushima, about 240 kilo­me­tres (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

“It can be an is­sue but from the data I have re­ceived, at this mo­ment it’s not dan­ger­ous in Fukushima,” Ric­cardo Frac­cari told re­porters. “From this point of view we do not have any prob­lem to go to Fukushima.” Frac­cari is set to inspect three venues in Fukushima pre­fec­ture to­day, in­clud­ing Iwaki Green Sta­dium, which hosted the un­der-15 Baseball Cup ear­lier this year.

“Only one coun­try (Ger­many) re­fused to come, but the rest were there,” the Ital­ian said of the 12-team tour­na­ment. Baseball and soft­ball were dropped from the Olympic pro­gramme af­ter 2008 but were voted back in by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC), in large part due to their pop­u­lar­ity in Ja­pan.

Any move to stage games in Fukushima still needs to be for­mally ap­proved by the IOC, how­ever, with a fi­nal de­ci­sion ex­pected next month.

“The main is­sues are the fa­cil­i­ties and the sched­ule. The other things are not a prob­lem,” Frac­cari said, re­fer­ring to con­cerns about ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure.

The March 2011 tsunami, trig­gered by a mas­sive un­der­sea quake, killed around 18,000 peo­ple and swamped emer­gency power sup­plies at the Fukushima nu­clear plant, send­ing its re­ac­tors into melt­down.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple evac­u­ated their homes and farms at the time and the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment has been work­ing to re­build the re­gion, al­though ar­eas near the crip­pled plant re­main un­in­hab­it­able be­cause of ra­di­a­tion dan­gers.

Fukushima has two baseball sta­di­ums with a ca­pac­ity of 30,000 each, lo­cated dozens of kilo­me­tres away from the “dif­fi­cult-to-re­turn zone” des­ig­nated by the gov­ern­ment. Tokyo 2020’s pro­posal comes af­ter IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach met last month with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and said Olympic of­fi­cials were con­sid­er­ing the op­tion.

It also comes af­ter ex­perts warned the to­tal Tokyo 2020 bud­get could hit an eye-wa­ter­ing $30 bil­lion-four times the ini­tial es­ti­mate and al­most triple that of the 2012 London Olympics.

Tokyo metropoli­tan of­fi­cials, led by Gov­er­nor Yuriko Koike, are pur­su­ing cheaper op­tions, such as re­lo­cat­ing the ca­noe­ing and row­ing events while scal­ing back plans for a new swim­ming venue.

IOC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Christophe Dubi said re­cently that the row­ing and ca­noe­ing could take place in Miyagi pre­fec­ture, also part of the re­gion hit hard­est by the 2011 dis­as­ter.

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